The Tantric Spiritual Art of Nadean O'Brien

Mandalas by Rampal





"Dombi and the Dakini"

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(acrylic on canvas 36" x 36" embellished with crystals, miniature tiger-eye cabochons and gold leaf)

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One of my more contemporary Tantric paintings, this lighthearted and lovely mandala was over seven months in the making. Each leaf and blossom was individually painted. Tibetan spiritual art is customarily framed in silk brocade, and I have included in the artwork an intricate border richly embellished with gold leaf, crystals, tiger-eye cabochons and dimensional paint. 

More a thangka than a geometric mandala, it is nonetheless square with four protective stylized "gates" around the inner temple where the deities reside. In meditation, one can enter the world of Dombi and the Dakini and partake of their bliss.

The artistic inspiration for "Dombi and the Dakini" comes from the renown jungle paintings of Henri Rousseau as well as traditional Tibetan mystical art. Dombi and his yogini partner were certainly colorful subjects, often portrayed riding around naked on a wild Bengal tigress as they went collecting alms.

In this painting, he holds a poisonous snake in his right hand to indicate his power over the natural world. She holds up a skull cup filled with blissful nectars, historically alcoholic in nature. Their eyes are locked in an amorous glance as they ride without concern through an idyllic forest setting of mating peacocks and a monkey enjoying his repast of exotic fruit. The "wall-eyed wisdom bird" observes the scene from her perch high in a tree.


The Mahasiddha Dombi Heruka

Sri Dombi Heruka was a man, who from historical research, actually lived in Kashmir and the Himalayan regions during the 10th Century A.D. As Indian King Cakravarman, he came to power due to the military support of a group of feudal barons, but was to hold the throne no longer than a year. His royal downfall began when an outcast Gypsy entertainer named Ranga and his two beautiful dancing daughters, Hamsi and Nagalata, appeared in court and began to win the kings favor. The eventual result was a revolt by the king's earlier supporters and an attempt on his life. The king fled into the forest with the two women (actually yoginis), and then with time became a spiritual seeker achieving enlightenment.

As legend goes, the kingdom became misgoverned and fell into anarchy. A council of Brahmins thus agreed to recall their former king, and messengers were sent into the forest where Dombi was living in solitude with his two wives. They found him sitting under a tree with Hamsi while Nagalata walked across delicate lotus leaves to the middle of the pond where she drew cool water for the king. The messengers were amazed by this show of yogic power and even more eager to have their king return. It is said that when Dombi came out of the forest, he was seen riding naked with Hamsi on the back of a ferocious pregnant tiger (Nagalata magically transformed), his matted hair tied up in a topknot like Shiva's, ornamented with deadly cobras and brandishing one of the snakes as a whip. Overcome with fear and awe, the ministers and people begged their exiled lord to take up the reins of government again. 

Dombi refused and asked for public cremation which was the punishment for consorting with an outcast woman. Consequently, a huge sandalwood pyre was erected and mounted by both king and consorts. When at last the flames died down and the great plume of smoke dissipated enough to see, the people were astonished to witness Dombi Heruka dancing in the heart of the fire in the form of mighty Hevajra. Then water rose to extinguish the flames and a lake formed where the cremation had taken place. The legend concludes that through this miraculous display, the king of yogis Dombi Heruka drew all his people to the spiritual path. And, this is how the kingdom of Kashmir became a paradise on earth.

Whatever, the legend, the fact is that Sri Dombi Heruka was a very great Tantric master and the author of several important treatises. In Tibetan Buddhist literature he is listed as one of the two principal disciples of Virupa. He was a noted exponent of the Sri Hevajra Tantra, the root Tantra of the Vajrakapalika spiritual tradition. He is venerated as a miracle working Mahasiddha, a Great Adept who rode on the back of a wild Bengal tigress with cobras wrapped around his body. Within the story of Dombi Heruka several moral and spiritual messages are given, as he explains:

"Political power is of little benefit. Those who wield authority can accomplish little good, and more often than not cause misery to many. Social power and caste only result in oppression of the less fortunate. You should understand that now my kingdom is no longer of this world. It is the only kingdom worth ruling, for my kingdom is now the kingdom of Dharma!"

Om Mani Padme Hum

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